MINNEAPOLIS — Through the first three games of their four-game series against the Angels, the last-place Twins were actually competitive against the team with the best record in baseball.
It’s hard to compete, though, when your pitching staff gives up 14 runs on 19 hits, which is exactly what Minnesota’s pitchers did in the series finale Sunday. The end result was a lopsided 14-4 loss for the Twins, which had lost the first three games of the series by a combined five runs.
Four different pitchers — all of whom were auditioning for roster spots next year — combined to surrender the 14 runs. Left-hander Logan Darnell, who was making a spot start in place of Tommy Milone, gave up five of them.
The 19 hits equaled the most given up by Twins pitchers this season; the only other instance was a 12-9 loss to Detroit in June. And those 19 Angels hits were a season high for Los Angeles and the most since they hit 20 back in June of 2013.
"They kept swinging and the ball kept flying," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "It was just one of those days. We’re trying to get through a ball game with those young kids out there and see what they can do. A rough day."
The Angels hit the Twins’ pitchers early and often Sunday, although Darnell cruised through the first inning with a pair of strikeouts. But it didn’t take long after that — just one batter, in fact — for Los Angeles to tag him for a hit and a run.
Howie Kendrick sent a 1-2 pitch from Darnell into the left field seats as his sixth homer of the year traveled an estimated 433 feet. One inning later, Darnell was once again done in by a home run, this time off the bat of Angels star Mike Trout. After Collin Cowgill led off the third inning with a double, Trout hit a 2-0 pitch that seemed to keep carrying until it landed just over the fence in left field.
"I know he hit it well. He hit it pretty high," Darnell said of Trout’s two-run shot. "It was definitely a bad pitch, but it was close. He got a good swing on it."
The Angels jumped on Darnell for two more runs in the fifth before chasing the left-hander from the game. He gave up a leadoff double to C.J. Cron, who eventually scored on Erick Aybar’s sacrifice fly to put Los Angeles up 4-3. Darnell walked Trout with one out and was then taken out in place of reliever A.J. Achter. Trout came around to score on Howie Kendrick’s triple as that run was given to Darnell.
The 25-year-old Darnell spent almost the entire season in Triple-A Rochester but did make three appearances with the Twins earlier this year. His big league debut came on May 6 in relief, and his first start with Minnesota was on July 26. In his three outings, he went a combined 12 innings and allowed 11 runs on 16 hits.
Sunday didn’t help those numbers much. When his day was all said and done, Darnell gave up five runs on five hits and a walk in just 4 2/3 innings. His ERA jumped to 8.64 as he fell to 0-2.
"They’re swinging the bat well the last couple days. They’re very aggressive, which is good for them," Darnell said of the Angels, who improved to 87-55 with the win. "You don’t want to make a mistake to anybody, but they seemed to make me pay for the ones I made today."
After replacing Darnell, Achter lasted just one inning before getting the hook. In his limited work, he was charged with five runs — only two of which were earned — after allowing five hits. Achter, too, surrendered a home run as Cron took him deep for a two-run homer in the top of the sixth.
As Minnesota dug deeper into its bullpen, the Twins struggled to find someone to stop the bleeding. Lester Oliveros gave up two runs in just 1/3 innings, while Ryan Pressly also was hit for a pair of runs in one inning.
Minnesota once led 3-1 after two innings, thanks in part to a two-run double by Aaron Hicks. By the time the Twins got to their fourth reliever, that lead was already 14-3. The Angels were held relatively in check since Thursday’s opener. The floodgates finally opened in Sunday’s one-sided finale.
"We threw some young pitching at them today, and we had our troubles," Gardenhire said. "(They’re) facing a very good baseball team over there that’s actually swinging the bat really good. They can do a lot of things. We hung in there the first three days and had chances. Today, they just dominated us and pretty much beat the ball all over the place."